Seeking sanctuary


A refugee is a person who: ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’ (Article 1, 1951 Convention). Someone with refugee status has leave to remain and the right to work or to claim benefits.

An asylum seeker is someone who has asked the Government for refugee status and is waiting to hear the outcome of their application. They are allowed to stay whilst they’re waiting. They are not allowed to work and have a different system of benefits.

A refused asylum seeker is someone whose claim has been refused. They may be deported but they may collect further evidence to re-start their claim. They are not allowed to work and may not be able to claim benefits. Many become homeless.

An economic migrant is someone who has moved to another country to work. EU migrants often fall into this category.

An illegal immigrant is someone who has either entered a country illegally and not made themselves known or who has overstayed and has no legal right to stay. They are not allowed to work or claim benefits.


• As of the beginning of 2012, the population of refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless persons made up 0.27% of the population of the UK. (UNHCR)

• The vast majority of refugees stay in their region of displacement, so that four fifths (80%) of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.

• As of 2013, the top five countries of origin are Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Congo. (UKBA)

• The majority of asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom and so must rely on state support. Housing is provided, but asylum seekers cannot choose where it is, and it is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in. Financial support is available, and is currently set at £36.62 per person, per week, which makes it £5.23 a day for food, toiletries and clothing.

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